Tag Archives: Station Eleven

Top Ten Reads of 2015

I’m late on this! But I figured better late than never. 2015 has been a fantastic reading year for me.  There are some years where any one of these top ten would have my favourite book of the year, and there are plenty of books that didn’t make it on this list that were truly excellent.

A couple of notes. I’ve kept descriptions short, so check out the full reviews if you’d like to read about details of plot and premise; they are always spoiler-free unless otherwise noted.

And an admission: I cheated by way of including a trilogy as a single entry on this list, so there are 12 books, not 10. The trilogy in question is so ardently adored by me that it would have dominated the top five otherwise, which just seemed unfair when there were so many other great books.


 

goblin emperor10.  The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison

The Goblin Emperor is the story of a naïve, well-meaning young man suddenly thrust into a deadly world of court etiquette, political machinations, and social and racial tensions. This could describe a lot of books, but TGE is set aside by a genuinely lovable, well written protagonist and a warm, optimistic tone. If you want courtly intrigue and creative world building with a sympathetic hero, this is your book. Full review here.

iron night cover9.  Iron Night by M. L. Brennan.

M. L. Brennan’s Generation V was ever so much fun. It had all the campy appeal of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but for a nerdy, under-employed, post-liberal arts degree crowd instead of misfit high schoolers. Then Iron Night took everything about Generation V and made it even better. The characters become more complex, the plot more intense, the relationships more interesting, protagonist Fort the vegetarian vampire more hilarious. Fort’s struggles to balance his vampirism and family ties with his own pacifist inclinations make for a darkly comedic and highly entertaining read. Full review here.

honor's knight8.  Honor’s Knight by Rachel Bach

It’s hard to compare a book like Honor’s Knight, second in the Paradox trilogy and my favourite of the three, with others on this list. It’s a romantic action-packed space opera, and it isn’t exactly life-changing – but it does what it sets out to do perfectly. And by that I mean have a truly ridiculous amount of fun following the antics of a spacefaring crew trying to save the galaxy with powered armour suits and many, many guns. Full review here.

bone dolls twin7.  The Bone Doll’s Twin by Lynn Flewelling

The first book in a dark, character-driven trilogy about a young girl disguised as a boy from birth to protect her from a femicidal uncle – and by disguised, I mean that she literally walks around in the skin of her dead brother after a blood magic ritual. Aside from the typical epic fantasy story arc it follows (a hidden queen fights to restore her throne and set things right), the series deals with her gender dysphoria, her confusion at the family secrets and betrayals, and the question of whether the ends justify the means. It’s creepy, dark, has a charming romance, a diverse and interesting cast, and was completely riveting from start to finish. Full review here.

three body problem6.  The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin

This is Ken Liu’s English translation of the Chinese science fiction phenomenon that won the Hugo this year – very deservedly so, in my opinion. Despite some exposition dumps and awkward dialogue, this book is so wildly fascinating and imaginative that it easily makes the top ten. It is a fantastic read – and noteworthy because I actually had to stop reading it before bed for a while because it gave me weird nightmares about physics. True story. Full review here.

stange and norrell5.  Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke

Dark, twisted magic. Victorian era setting and spelling. Gentlemen and ladies exchanging polite witticisms. Endless (but also endlessly entertaining) footnotes. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell is enormous, utterly unique, laugh out loud hilarious, terribly creepy and atmospheric, and wonderfully memorable.  Full review here.

dreamers pool4.  Dreamer’s Pool by Juliet Marillier

A dark folklore and fairytale-inspired fantasy novel set in ancient Ireland and nearly impossible to put down. Dreamer’s Pool focuses on two grieving, flawed protagonists, both dealing with severe post-traumatic stress disorder and trying to move on with their lives. The first novel I’ve read by Juliet Marillier, this blew me away with amazing characterization, a moving portrayal of platonic love, a masterfully crafted plot, beautiful writing, and a nuanced and compelling portrayal of trauma and it’s impact.  Full review here.

station eleven3.  Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Set twenty years from now after the collapse of civilization, Station Eleven skyrockets near to the top of the books I’ve read this year based on the incredible artistry of the writing—this is the book on this list I would most recommend to someone who generally prefers literary fiction to spec fiction. The vision of post-apocalyptic life created by Emily St. John Mandel is so vividly tragic and eerily beautiful, and the storytelling haunted me long after finishing the book. Full review here.

left hand of darkness2.  The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin

This beautiful, wonderful book is so near and dear to my heart, and Ursula K. Le Guin is my queen. That is all.  Full review here.

 

ancillary justice cover1.  Ancillary Justice, Ancillary Sword, and Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie

Is anyone surprised? (No. No one is surprised.)

Three very different and equally extraordinary books – rollicking revenge space opera Justice, political and social commentary Sword, and the hilarious and moving Mercy – create one phenomenal trilogy. I love everything about these books, from the ambiguous treatment of gender to the singing to the unrelenting fixation with tea. An evil expansionist space empire run by a clone! Themes of classism, colonialism, determinism, free will, the nature of sentience. Alien races about whom everything is actually completely alien, down to their very conception of identity. A protagonist who is an actual spaceship. The Imperial Radch trilogy is all the most awesome tropes of science fiction, brilliantly and originally executed.

Ann Leckie took an ambitious central concept – what would it be like to be a multi-bodied artificial intelligence? She made that character work as a first-person narrator, in spite of the enormous difficulties that presents. More than making her work, she made her relatable and compelling without ever sacrificing her distance, her alienness. And she followed up on every question and theme that came out of this (how is identity constructed? what defines personhood? who are we really?) to create three of the most exciting, thought-provoking, mind-bending books I’ve ever read, period.

Which makes them easily my most-loved reads of 2015.

Full review of Ancillary Justice here.
Full review of Ancillary Sword here.
Full review of Ancillary Mercy here.

Top Ten Books I’ve read in the first half of 2015

I have been, at best, a sporadic participate in Top Ten Tuesday at the Broke and the Bookish… But I am particularly excited for this week’s, topic, which is an opportunity to think about the reading since starting this blog and pick my favourite ten reads.

Some comments: the top three were very easy for this – they are not only three of the best books I’ve read so far this year, but three of the best books I’ve read, period. If I gave star ratings, they would be 5/5 perfect scores.

After the top three, things get a little dicey, and I’m not as confident about the specific order, which might be a little different if I were to make the list tomorrow. Or even an hour from now! I am confident, though, that the books below are a fantastic testament to all the amazingness I’ve been reading since I started blogging this year.

I’ve also refrained from selecting multiple books from the same series, in the interest of variety. So without further ado, the top ten books I’ve read so far in 2015 – titles link to my reviews for further elaboration on why I enjoyed them!


 

creature of moonlight cover10.  A Creature of Moonlight, Rebecca Hahn 

An example of a wonderful Young Adult fantasy novel with feminist themes… If you are emotionally invested in young women’s agency and empowerment or grandparent/grandchild love, then this will be an especially moving read for you, as it was for me.

golem and jinni9.  The Golem and the Jinni, Helene Wecker

The story of two unusual (and fantastical) immigrants and their journeys of self-discovery, set in New York City at the turn of the century.

palace of illusions8.  The Palace of Illusions, Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni 

A retelling of the Sanskrit epic the Mabharata from the point of view of Princess Panchaali, the woman who married five husbands and whose desire for revenge started a war.

orleans cover7.  Orleans, Sherri L. Smith

This is my go-to recommendation for Young Adult fiction since I read it: an original, well written, romance-free novel with a fascinating urban post-apocalyptic setting and a great protagonist.

shining girls cover6.  The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes

The story of a time-traveling serial killer who selects his victims (the “shining girls”) from across time, and of the survivor who is trying to hunt him down.  A violent, unique, genre-bending crime thriller that kept me glued to the page.

his majesty's dragon5.  His Majesty’s Dragon, Naomi Novik

This book was just so much fun. If you are looking for fantastical entertainment and the idea of an alternate history where the Napoleonic Wars were fought with (super lovable) dragons sounds appealing, then may I wholeheartedly recommend this book.

bone dolls twin4.  The Bone Doll’s Twin, Lynn Flewelling

A prophecy says that the country of Skala can only be ruled by daughters, and so a jealous king murders the women and girls in his line to ensure his son’s place on the throne – except for one niece, who grows up in disguise and believing she is a boy in this first book of the creepy and addictive Tamir Triad.

station eleven3.  Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

This haunting, post-apocalyptic book is about what humanity has lost and how they continue to derive meaning from their lives after the end of civilization as we know it. Not your typical piece of sci-fi, this  elegant and tragic piece of art has stayed with me long after finishing it.

left hand of darkness2.  The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin’s masterpiece is full of astonishingly beautiful writing from its first sentence (“I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination,”) to its last. Everything about The Left Hand of Darkness lived up to what I have heard about it, and I found the experience of reading it profoundly moving.

ancillary justice cover1.  Ancillary Justice, Ann Leckie

Sometimes you read a book and all you can think is, where has this book been all my life.  Unique ideas, challenging concepts, and themes that I care deeply about, all handled in an intelligent and meaningful way. A multibodied protagonist, a genderless society, artificial intelligence, social and class commentary… spaceships, explosions, personal vendettas, firefights. Ancillary Justice is everything that I ever wanted out of science fiction in one badass package.

 

Book Review: Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)

Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Post-apocalyptic / Standalone

“An incomplete list:
No more diving into pools of chlorinated water lit green from below. No more ball games played out under floodlights. No more porch lights with moths fluttering on summer nights. No more trains running under the surface of cities on the dazzling power of the electric third rail. No more cities. No more films, except rarely, except with a generator drowning out half the dialogue, and only then for the first little while until the fuel for the generators ran out, because automobile gas goes stale after two or three years.”

Actor Arthur Leander dies onstage during a production of King Lear; hours later, an epidemic of Georgian flu begins killing people and eventually wipes out most of humanity. In Station Eleven, we learn about life of Leander, and about those people whose lives intersected with his, both pre- and post-apocalypse. In particular, Mandel focuses on Leander’s first wife, Miranda, who spends years of her life perfecting her comic “Station Eleven”, as well as Kirsten, a child actor who witnessed his death and whose most treasured possession in the apocalypse is Miranda’s comic.

This is a haunting and incredibly moving narrative, and is one of my favourite reads in recent memory. Station Eleven is an exploration of the things we use to mark or measure our lives; all the mundane and strange, superficial and profound things that we derive joy and meaning from. It’s an introspective take on a genre that is often grim and action-packed.  This is not the exciting tale of survival in post-apocalyptic times, but a mournful and lyrical elegy for what has been lost. Continue reading Book Review: Station Eleven (Emily St. John Mandel)

What I’m Doing Wednesday (April 29, 2015)

Reading

The same books as last week, but with one addition which has a sort of interesting story behind it. I put Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel on hold at the library a couple of months ago, and I remember observing that it had one of the longest waitlists I had ever seen. This week I had some time to kill and decided to wander around the stacks at the library….. and what should I see but Station Eleven, on the shelf, just sitting there. So I took it… and signed it out… and no library police descended on me to take it away. I thought I would check online because, hey, maybe the waitlist just wasn’t as long as I thought! But instead I discovered I skipped 341 places in line!! Now it’s sitting on my bedtable evoking a confusing mix of guilt and excitement as I attempt to read it as fast as possible to minimize my shame.

I’m the worst.

Watching

Making sure I’m all caught up on Agents of SHIELD, in preparation for Avengers: Age of Ultron!

Playing

Starting in earnest on a new Dragon Age Inquisition play through with an elven dual-wielding rogue who I’m pretty sure is crushing on Iron Bull.